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Fashion and the SDGs · Thought Leadership · SupplyCompass

SupplyCompass and the SDGs
Sep 16
4 minutes

SupplyCompass and the SDGs

Header Image: UN SDGs

SupplyCompass and the SDGs

Back in 2015, all 192 United Nations member states came together to commit to tackling 17 ambitious global goals – the Sustainable Development Goals – by 2030, to achieve peace and prosperity for all.

With specific targets and indicators, these SDGs are meant to be the game plan to tackle some of the most pressing challenges that we are collectively facing. Expansive in reach yet adaptable by most, it’s not just countries but also industries and organizations, big and small, across the world, that are encouraged to direct their efforts towards achieving any combination of these goals.

As an industry worth $2.4 trillion dollars and employing approximately 300 million people across its value chain, it suffices to say that fashion’s contribution to the SDGs is crucial to the future health of Planet Earth and its people. Out of the 17 goals that have been picked to relate to fashion’s impact, most revolve around poverty, climate action, water and decent work. 

So what does a software service or tech company, that doesn’t make physical products, have to do with meeting the SDGs? It turns out, quite a lot. According to a new study by the World Economic Forum and PwC, about 70% of the 169 targets underpinning the global Sustainable Development Goals could be aided by technological innovation. It’s not hard to see why as technology controls a lot of how the world functions in the 21st Century.  But to design tech for good, this means understanding the impact of our actions beyond our most immediate stakeholders engaged and reconfiguring a system to help processes become more efficient (more on our product principles to come soon!).

At SupplyCompass, we take our role as a tech innovator seriously. A lot of the talk in fashion around the SDGs can be rather nebulous without exactly pinning down the goals that matter most and how exactly these goals are being integrated into everyday practice and long-term strategy for organizations in the industry. We don’t claim to be perfect and we know we still have a LOT more to do.  But we do like to be honest and clear about what we’re doing and what we’d like to do next. These are the four SDGs we most identify with and are committed to meeting as part of our long-term vision.

SDG 9/ Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure

The UN recommends industrial excellence and technological innovation as critical to solving economic and environmental challenges and helping resources be used efficiently. As a tech company, a key goal of ours is to help fashion brands become more time and resource-efficient by simplifying a traditionally convoluted process. Reducing time spent on constant updates, organizing files and tracking of information across too many channels, helps both brands and manufacturers do things quickly and accurately the first time around, and focus on other areas that truly matter. You can read more about why we think systems thinking is important for the fashion industry here.

If you are interested in listening to more of what we have to say on the topic, subscribe to The Right Thing, a fortnightly letter from our Co-Founder Flora’s desk. Sent to a community of 10,000+ (including Adidas, Ganni and Allbirds), she writes about everything from innovation and collaboration to systems thinking and sustainability. 

Our product is ever-evolving and being built around what brands and manufacturers want from software. This means user research, constant learning and human-centred design backs up everything we do.

Snapshot from our Style Tracker. Building tools specifically for the fashion industry’s unique needs helps brands and manufacturers work faster, better and more collaboratively.

SDG 10/ Reduced inequalities

Distributing accountability equally and building a truly collaborative system that benefits both fashion brands and manufacturers have been core to our ethos. In a notoriously one-sided system, value needs to be created and shared equally among parties and across the value chain, instead of being concentrated in the hands of a few. Easy visibility across all areas of the production process + building a frictionless experience that also helps manufacturers spend less time in front of a computer screen fielding questions helps to avoid blame-games and increased pressure on them to deliver. In our longer-term product plans, we also aim to design prompts into the system that promote behavioural change and help brands consider the impact of their actions before they take an important decision, improving their overall purchasing practices.

The software that I’ve used before is just so focused on the brand side. And it, like, does not at all meet the needs of a manufacturer. It’s just some floofy design process. THIS is clearly designed with people who are actually making clothes. You all actually know what that means. And that—that means a lot too.

SupplyCompass Client

SDG 12/ Responsible Production

We are conscious of how good process is crucial to making responsibly. Designing processes that reduce costly mistakes—anything from misplaced information, inaccurate measurements and wrong versions of tech packs—helps reduce overproduction and waste. With information centralised in one channel, collecting data to make better decisions around impact becomes easier in the long run.

As part of our advocacy and education efforts as well, we continue to advocate and champion more responsible practices. Our sustainability guides cover a range of topics from materials to certifications and aim to simplify sustainability through accessible content.

SDG 17/ Partnerships for the Goals

At SupplyCompass we swear by the saying “ If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” because we realise none of the SDGs can be met by working in isolation. Shared values, shared knowledge and a shared vision make it easier to connect the dots and think large scale, which is why we are always keen to create new partnerships with companies with similar mindsets and who provide expertise around areas that we don’t.

As part of our partnership activities, we have hosted (and continue to host webinars) with companies like Good on You, Flexport, Farfetch and Queen of Raw. We’ve also launched The Co:Lab, a hub for anyone who envisions a more interconnected, collaborative and responsible future for fashion. As part of The Co:Lab, We also launched The Eco:System, a curated directory of fashion service providers, with a special focus on sustainability, in one place for people to discover and build their network of contacts. In addition, our quarterly Co:Lab dinners in London bring together people from various parts of the industry for informal, free-flowing conversation and exchange of ideas.

The SupplyCompass Co:Lab—a collaborative hub for anyone interested in a responsible future for fashion

 As we grow and continue to build more value for the people using our platform, so will our responsibilities towards contributing towards more responsible processes. We will continue to review how our actions create meaningful impact that aligns with the above goals and possibly more of the other 17 prescribed.

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Nayanika Bharadwaj
Sustainability and Marketing at SupplyCompass

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Nayanika is a designer, writer and illustrator whose work spans research, storytelling and strategy for sustainability in fashion. Her interests specifically lie in sustainable supply chains, craft production/innovation, circular economies and design for social innovation. She graduated from the prestigious MA Fashion Futures program at London College of Fashion with a Distinction in 2019, and has researched at and written for Centre for Sustainable Fashion and Fashion Revolution, amongst others.

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